Thursday, November 14, 2019

A moment in the day: fog

I'm pulling up to work on the first day of the impeachment inquiry hearings, and I don't want to turn off the car. I linger a bit at the curb with the radio on, listening.

I want to say I think this process will make a difference, but I tend to be a pessimist and if the last three years have taught me anything, it's to be even more pessimistic. This man feels completely unstoppable, like those hallucinogenic brooms in the movie Fantasia, but brooms are for cleaning things up, not making messes, and my metaphor is clearly not working, and anyway, it's unsettling to see Mickey Mouse chopping up anything that has hands.

Through my window, fog sits in the hills above the industrial area of Portland where I work. I want to say I think this process will make a difference, but if the last three years have taught me anything, it's that half the country will turn a blind eye on any number of truths. As I was driving in this morning, listening to the opening statements, there seemed to be no fog at all on the east side, but then, ahead, a sudden cloud lay across the Broadway Bridge. Driving onto the bridge, I drove right into it, white all around me, out over the water, and the world disappeared into it. It was like the river was the dividing line. Half of the city clear, half  the city socked in. That's not a metaphor, it's just weird science.

I've got to stop listening. I've got to get in there and get on the clock.

I turn off the motor and let things go quiet.

As I grab my bag and get out of the car, a bicycle rides by, white head lamp lighting up silver in the fog. I hear the voices again, loud. The same exact voices. The bicyclist flashes by, listening to the hearings as he goes.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

a moment in the day: pages

We're at the literary event, and they're about to announce my name. When they do, I'll get up and take these pages in my lap to where the microphone is, and I'll read my piece.

Tomorrow we've got an event that's even more involved, one Stephen will be singing in, one he's been making a beautiful, intricate costume for. Which he hasn't finished yet. In the car on the way over tonight, we were talking about events and how you can still get stressed after all these years.

"And why?" he said. "It's supposed to be fun!"

"I know!" I said. "I mean, I may mess up, but who cares? I've messed up before, and it's been fine. All that matters is that we get out there and we have a good time."

And we do. Even with the stressing, it's always fun. This is the thing we tend to forget when we're busy worrying over will we get there on time will the costume be done will I stumble over my words will I lose my place will I drive around twenty minutes looking for parking will I read poorly will no one laugh at the funny parts will someone come up to talk to me and I won't remember their name will I trip on my way to the microphone and fall on my face will my pants fall down.

That never happens. Your pants never fall down.

And here's the thing. If you have fun no matter what goes wrong, what can go wrong?

At the front of the room, now, the co-host calls out my name. As the audience applauds, I head on up.

She hands me the mic and I turn to the audience. Big grin on my face.

"Hi!" I say. I hold up my small stack of pages: the lifeline and security blanket of every writer. "So, before we get started, does anyone have my first page?"

Friday, November 1, 2019

a moment in the day: knife

As I get out of the car, home from work, Stephen is just behind the fence in the backyard, and calls to me to come around back. It's only fourish in the afternoon. I had an early day, off at three, to come home and catch some quick early dinner before heading off to the opera, to our makeup calls, on this, the second-to-last performance of the run. It's also Halloween. We have a load of candy ready, and a bowl, and I'm hoping to see a trick-or-treater or two before we have to head out and leave the bowl on the porch.

I haul my bags out of the car and come around front, heading to the backyard. Then pause.

I say, "I'm just going to take care of this right now."

The tiny pocket knife sitting on the second-to-top step to our front porch.

It's been sitting there since the middle of January when we came home from an evening at the theater and found it.

I don't know where it came from. I don't know why we left it. At first it seemed like an evil omen to me and I didn't want to touch it. But it soon became this thing Stephen and I both were oddly possessive of, always wanting to make sure it was still there. For me, this was partly habit. It was there so it should stay there. It was also weird, and I like things that are weird.

That weird little knife hooked up with the part of my brain that loves story. I often wonder, how will it end? All stories have ends, so this one must, too. Will we just come home one day and it's gone? Back in the summer that happened, actually. I walked up the steps and—blink—it wasn't there. I felt sad. But I also felt like, OK, there's the end of the story. Now it's a completed thing.

Then I was weeding in the yard over the weekend and found it lying in the middle of the grass.

I put it back on the second-to-top step again and made sure it was set at a slant, just like always.

Last week we had fierce winds in Portland. I wondered if that would be the end to this little knife story. Whether we'd take it down so that it didn't fly off into the night. Whether we'd leave it and it would do just that. I thought about mentioning it to Stephen but then figured I'd let fate decide. And wind whipped the trees all day and all night and the knife didn't budge.

But you don't leave a knife on your porch when it's Halloween.

Hey, kids, we're away, but help yourselves. We have Whoppers. Milk Duds. Concealable weapons.

I round the front of the car and grab the picket knife from the step. It's so small and light in my hand.

Perhaps this will be where the story ends. Perhaps I'll get it back to Stephen at the back fence, and he'll say, maybe it's time...

He holds the gate open for me and I walk through. He points to the place where the fence ends at the corner of our house near the back door.

"Put it there," he says. "It can guard our house from here."

I put the knife on the edge of the fence, and Stephen turns it a little to make sure it's slanty, just like always.